Thursday, July 30, 2009

And on the 81st day, she rested.

SF Marathon race update: there is now a record of me running the SF Half Marathon last weekend. I was 6th overall and 2nd Master with a time of 1:21:55. I offer the following pictures of me hitting the wall of walkers at the exit from Golden Gate Park and zooming along the Embarcadero towards the end of the race as proof (it says it right there on the picture) that I was there and my stories are true.

On Monday, I did what for some hard core runners might be the unthinkable--I took a rest day. I wasn’t feeling pain anywhere from my race and long run on Sunday. I was actually feeling quite the opposite: not sore at all and full of energy. My schedule didn’t require me to rest, though it was listed as an option. I just decided I would.

Looking back at my training records, I hadn’t taken a day off from running in 80 days. That’s a long stretch. I used to make excuses for why I shouldn’t take rest days. I felt worse after taking a rest day was my favorite. Guess what? I felt no worse during Tuesday’s 9 miler for having rested on Monday and have felt great in all subsequent runs.

I think it’s hard for competitive runners to see the value in taking a rest day. We train so hard and believe that it’s only that hard training that propels us to faster times. We rarely think about taking a rest day or building recovery weeks into our programs. However, scientists tell us what really makes us faster is the physiological response of our bodies to that hard work. Moreover, this adaptation occurs when we’re not training. If you gyp yourself of that recovery time, you may still get faster, but you won’t optimize your training. Even worse, you might get slower because you get injured.

While I understand this simple training principle, I would not follow it if I didn’t have a training plan that forced recovery and rest on me. I am in the middle of a planned recovery week right now as a matter of fact, only running 61 miles after a light week last week of 72. I am enjoying this easy week because I have two weeks of hell coming up.

These next 3 weeks of training are all 95-mile weeks for me and represent the heart of my marathon training for the Twin Cities Marathon. On top of the crazy training schedule, I have my annual 2-week military tour coming up starting Monday where I commute to Travis AFB daily for my training. I’m lucky to be able to remain local for my tour, but the commute is at least one hour each way. Add that to 9-10 hours at work, and we’re looking at an 11-12 hour workday. I don’t even want to do the math to figure out how little sleep I’ll get. Tuesday, I have a 21-mile training day and will probably have to start my morning 16 miles at 4 a.m. to fit it in before work. I'll then come home and run another 5 late in the evening.

This is just fair warning to anyone that has to deal with me these next 2 weeks: I will be sleep-deprived, my house will become a hairy mess, and I will likely interpret any criticism as harboring malicious intent. Oh, and definitely do not get between my food and me. You will lose a hand.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I'll take 8 mugs of beer, please.

If a runner runs a race and doesn't show up in the results, did she really run the race? You're going to have to take my word for the fact that I did run the second half of the San Francisco marathon this morning. The results show me finishing the full marathon in 3:25, though this time has been a moving target all day showing 3:23, then 3:25 and later a 3:02. At one point (Dissin' Genius as my witness) the results showed that I spanked the field with my age-graded performance of 369%. Now, it's been changed to show a mere 70%. I really thought I had something on Barbara Miller for a minute there.

How does this happen? I don't know, but I have a message in to the race results company. I'm really kind of curious how they work these things out.

Anyway, I'll get back to the race that I actually ran. DG and I left the house at 5:20 for the race start in Golden Gate Park picking up my friend Kirsten along the way. It was a pleasant morning in the mid-50s with a little bit of drizzle when he dropped us off. During our warm up, we ran in the opposite direction as the marathoners that were running down the same road that our race would start. I started to realize that this might be an issue for those of us running the second half marathon if there wasn't a way to separate us from the marathoners who, from the signs being waved around by pace group leaders, were shooting for 3:50-4:10 finish times. So, we would be running up from behind them constantly for 13 miles going about 3-4 minutes per mile faster than they were running. Who looks at a race like this and thinks, "Wow, wouldn't it be fun to start a group of sub-6:00/mile runners at the same time that the 4-hour marathoners are coming through Golden Gate Park?" This turned out to be a problem.

I knew that the course was going to be hilly, but I thought it would be less hilly than Seattle. I was wrong. This one was pretty darn hilly. I've pasted the output from my Garmin below including the course profile so you can see how hilly it was. I don't trust the overall elevation gain that it shows, but you can see that there was never a break from the undulations. This turned out to be a problem for me mentally. Looking at the elevation profile on line last week, I was planning for some good hills for the first 5 miles, then I would have some nice downhill miles followed by flats. So, I hit mile 6 thinking that I had made it through the tough stuff, but I kept hitting hill after hill, though they were less severe than those in the first 6 miles.

Had I gone out at a reasonable pace in the hills the first 6 miles, I might not have cared at all about those that came later. But, my first 6 miles were not reasonable. I attacked from the gun with a first mile at 5:54 pace. The next one was a 5:59 and the third was finally a reasonable 6:15 up that ridiculous hill. My first 5k was 18:55--in those hills. So, why did I do this? I was tailing Sylvia Mosqueda, one of my Masters heroes, that's why. I had her in my sights for the first 6 miles. Of course she dropped me like a bad habit after that, but it was really inspiring to watch her float up those hills while weaving in and out of the marathoner traffic.

The slower marathon runners on the course made for very difficult fast running. Think about trying to run SPR (shortest possible route) under the following conditions:
  • throngs of runners hugging the curb at all of the turns;
  • trying to grab water and run through the water station when all of a sudden Joe Bag-o-Donuts decides to stop and walk as you reach for the cup, nearly avoiding a collision but spilling all of your water on your Garmin which starts a disco light show on your wrist for the next mile;
  • trying to shoot between runners when suddenly one veers left causing you to jump the curb and run up on the grassy shoulder to avoid a collision;
  • weaving constantly in and out of runner traffic to avoid other, slower runners.
I felt for these runners. They had no idea we were coming up from behind and it seemed stupid to say, "on your left" every few seconds as you passed one. Luckily, I didn't hit or trip anyone. Many of the Garmin-clad runners I talked to today showed a long course ranging from 13.3-13.5 miles instead of the standard 13.11 miles. I'm not sure if the course was actually long or if the weaving and bobbing caused the overage. My guess is it was the latter.

I also realized after the race that I was constantly having to change pace during this race with all of this bobbing and weaving and the 3-4 super sharp turns on the course. You can actually see these on the chart as the very tall blue lines showing a major slow down in pace. The three tallest ones were from the sharp turns. All of the rest were collision avoidance and weave-related.

I definitely paid for my hill hammering ways during the first 10 miles when I got to the last 3 miles of this race. I had set a goal of running the last 10 miles in under 1:02 because the last 10 miles looked to be downhill and/or flat on the elevation charts. How was I to know that I would actually exceed that goal in the first 10 miles?

My split for the first 10 miles, as calculated by my fancy GPS computer program, was 1:01:32. That right there was all I needed to see today. I was shocked when I saw this and decided to compare this to my 10-mile split from my PR half marathon back in March which was on a super flat course with great weather conditions and competition. My 10-mile split at Shamrock'n was 1:01:22. Sweet mother. I was on fire today! Who cares if I fell apart in the last 3 miles as a result of my exuberance? I felt like a rock star when I realized what I had done in the first 10 miles.

I was not feeling great in those last 3 miles to be sure. I felt even worse as I headed into the final stretch, saw 13.0 miles on my Garmin, and still could not see the finish line. That's because it was another 0.3 miles away. Major bummer. My finishing time according to my watch was around 1:21:50. I may never know what my official time was. So, I also met my goal of running faster than I did in Seattle a couple of weeks ago, arguably under much tougher conditions.

Kirsten and I both had some extra miles to tack on to the end of this race to get a total of 22 miles in for the day. We enjoyed a nice run along the waterfront with DG, but we were both ready to be done for the day.

The Genius and I decided to have lunch at the Beach Chalet off of the Great Highway. A burger, fries and the beer sampler were my reward for the day's work. When the waitress asked if I wanted 6, 7 or 8 beer samples, DG laughed at the lack of hesitation in my response--8 of course.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Double Trouble on My Birthday

I turned 42 on Tuesday. While this does not propel me into a new age group, it does mean my current 5k PR equates to an age-graded percentage of 86.82% rather than 86.16%. This means I gain a few more points in the local age-graded series for my upcoming races without having to run any faster. It’s the little things that make runners happy and keep us from obsessing about the fact that we’re getting older and (eventually) slower.

I had a double workout planned for the big day with 12 in the morning and 4 in the evening. I actually got up early enough to get the longer run in while it was still relatively cool out. The 12-mile workout included:

  • a warm up;
  • 20 minute progression run from “high moderate” effort to 10k effort, increasing effort every 5 minutes;
  • full recovery;
  • 15 x 60 seconds on @ 3k effort with 60 seconds jog recovery between.

I started the progression run after a 3-mile warm up and immediately fell into 6:50 pace for my “high moderate” effort. My moderate pace is supposed to be between 7:00-8:30, so I was a little fast but it felt really easy. The next two 5-minute segments were at 6:31 and 6:09 with a final 5 minutes at 5:54 pace. I was tired at the end, but jogged around for about 5 minutes before starting the 3k effort repeats. I ran these progressively faster as well and averaged 5:30 pace for the lot. This was a fun workout and I finally started to feel the increased fitness from the last few weeks’ workouts.

This is one of my favorite things to experience in training. You feel like you’re absolutely killing yourself for weeks. You’re tired. Your brain doesn’t seem to be functioning very well. You are sweaty and stinky all the time. Your legs feel dead. You are downright cranky. Then, you scrape just a little bit of mileage and intensity off the top, and you can actually feel the fitness improvement throughout your body during your workouts. You are suddenly able to leap tall buildings and run faster than you thought possible. This feeling is a good reminder that you need to work hard, but you must take a break (relatively speaking) to let your body absorb that training.

I decided to spend my evening 4-mile run with my fiancée, Tready Roosevelt, in the gym. As you may recall, I became engaged to the treadmill after my great treadmill workout last week. Our lovely 4-mile run included 8 strides and 5 minutes at half marathon effort, which penciled out to 6:11 pace at 1% grade for the evening. I kissed Tready goodbye and went home to enjoy a quiet evening with my vicious animals.

So, I get a little bit of a taper before this Sunday’s half marathon in San Francisco with only 75 miles scheduled for this week. I’ve not run this race before, so I am excited to experience it. I know that it will be hilly (though the elevation charts on the website mask that), but not as hilly as the recent half I did in Seattle. I am trying to formulate my three goals for this race and think I’m going to shoot for:

  1. Safe goal: run faster than I did at the Seattle half (<1:22:34).
  2. Reasonable goal: run the last 10 miles in 1:02 (6:10 pace). The first 3-4 miles are mostly uphill, so I will do what I can in those miles.
  3. If stars align goal: Set a PR. This would be <1:19:46.

The “stars align” goal was my reason for initially wanting to run this race. At the beginning of this cycle, my coach reminded me that, when I set my current PR, I was at a perfect place in my training to do so which was approximately 5 weeks out from Belgrade. I am currently 10 weeks out from the Twin Cities Marathon, so my recent training has not been specific to the longer distances. I decided then to lower my expectations for the SF half and adopt a goal to run the Buffalo Stampede 10-miler in less than an hour in September. I still believe I will run a fast half marathon this weekend, but I won’t feel disappointed if it’s not a PR.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My first RWI

I added another 90-mile week to the books today with the completion of 10 easy miles in 95 degree heat late this morning here in Sacramento. The Dissin' Genius and I were in Tacoma, WA for my sister's wedding all weekend and returned to the furnace that is Sacramento this morning on a 6:40 a.m. flight. As I loped along, the sun beating down on my back further emphasizing my racerback tan lines, I laughed about the complaints I and others had made about the heat this weekend in Tacoma.

The wedding was on Saturday at 5:30 p.m., and I had a double scheduled for that day: 16 in the morning plus 4 in the evening. I had planned to do the double Friday since I was worried about how I would fit the evening run in Saturday. This plan was a good one until Friday morning somehow got away from us, and we were staring a 10 a.m. start in the face. We thought it would be too hot to start a long run that late (funny in retrospect), so I stuck with the 10 miles I had on my schedule. I sent my coach a message asking if I could combine my two runs scheduled for Saturday into a 20 miler for convenience.

Friday was a beautiful day in the Northwest though slightly warm (upper 80s). We ran a 10-miler through downtown Tacoma and down to the waterfront along Ruston Way. The breeze really helped keep us cool, and the views of Mount Rainier were amazing on the return trip. I had tons of energy on this run and tore up the hills at the end.

When we got back from our run, I had a message from my coach putting the kibosh on my 20 miler idea. She pointed out that running three, quality 20+ milers in a row (last weekend, this weekend, next weekend) wasn't the smartest move because it was tough on the body. She suggested that I do the 16 miles in the morning and let the evening workout go. She reminded me that it’s better to go into a race undertrained than over trained. Given the fact that I was bordering on being over trained before Belgrade due to my schedule juggling and trying to fit too much in, I realized the folly in my suggestion. This is why I have a coach, and she is smart. The question was whether or not I could let that 4 miles go.

Our Saturday morning long run started under cooler conditions with cloudy skies, but quickly became warm as the clouds retreated. We decided to run the same route as Friday with a few more laps down on the waterfront. My run included 60 continuous minutes of quality: 5 x (6 minutes @ marathon effort + 5 minutes at half marathon effort + 1 minute @ 3k effort) with no rest between pace changes, finishing with 3 x 200m cut downs. I felt a little clunky during the warm up as we ran through downtown making our way south to the Chihully glass bridge and then heading north up Dock Street.

Once we got down to the waterfront, I ate a Roctane gel and took off on my pace work. I immediately realized that I should have run slower and taken it easier on the hills the day before. My legs were less than fresh, and I struggled for the first half of the workout. The sidewalk that I was running on was filled with pedestrians, their dogs, kids on bikes, scuba divers, and the funky dancing lady that needed the whole trail to get her groove on. Needless to say, it was an obstacle course out there.

Despite how tired I was, I averaged 6:19 pace for the marathon effort, 6:15 for the half marathon effort and 6:00 for the 3k effort. This was a tough workout especially the transition from 3k to marathon effort. I stopped a few times for water, a pit stop and a stretch because my calves were tightening up on me. My belly was not happy for most of the run maybe as a result of an ill-advised trip to Sushi Revolution the night before. The sushi was good, but I didn’t quite know what I was eating until I took it off of the conveyor belt. I think I overdid it on the eel. I was very happy to be done with the workout as I sped to a 5:47-paced last minute. We conquered the 1 mile hill on the way back, and I knocked out my cut downs at the end for a total of 17 miles.

As we dressed for the wedding, that last 3 miles for the day kept bugging me. I couldn't let them go and concocted a hare-brained scheme to run them after the wedding was over, while people were dancing. The location of the wedding was adjacent to Chambers Bay Golf Course, which has a lovely, hilly, 3-mile hiker-biker path ringing it. The park was built on an old gravel mining site that the City decided to turn into a golf course and recreation area.

The wedding was wonderful, and everyone had a great time. I was self conscious about my racerback tan lines exposed by my backless dress, but not enough to do anything about it. I was relieved to hear a couple of the wedding guests remark about it saying that I should consider it a badge of honor. I like that. Drinking started early with a beer or two, turned into nerve-calming shots of rum right before the ceremony (courtesy of one of the bridesmaids-DNP), and ended with more beer, red wine and champagne. I was having a great time dancing to Thriller and other classics until about 9:45 when I realized I better change into my running gear and get going!

I wadded up my dress, changed into my running uniform and shot out the back door to go find the trail. It was dark by now, but there were some lights to point the way. Once I started running I realized that I was hammered. I found the sensation of running while intoxicated very interesting having never done it before. I have no idea if I was weaving along the path, but the world was rushing by me in slow motion as if I was watching a movie frame by frame in front of me. I avoided tripping over or running into any of the half dozen or so people I saw on the trail and enjoyed watching bats circle over my head snapping up the bugs I was probably getting ready to inhale.

I screamed down the switchbacks in the dark and loped along the flats. Then, I hit the 3-minute hill at the end of the loop, which I was supposed to attack at 3k effort. This hill and I had met before. I had used it for 3-minute hill repeats when I was in Tacoma on vacation two winters ago. It is 11% grade and completely unforgiving. I decided it’s much easier to run a hill of this quality while drunk than while sober because I didn’t seem to care how my legs felt. I was too busy concentrating on keeping my food down. I narrowly escaped a series of ankle bites from two vicious dogs on my way to the top of the hill. Or, maybe my drunken mind conjured them up to keep me going to the top where I did a little happy dance and ran back to the party.

I danced until the last song played--Hit Me with Your Best Shot by Pat Benetar--but took no more shots myself. We then helped with clean up to wrap up the night around midnight. It was a long day (followed by a 4:45 a.m. wake-up call for our early Sunday flight), but a great weekend full of family, friends and running.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

This treadmill goes to 11!

I am not a fan of treadmill running.  Never have been.  In fact, I will go to extremes to avoid hopping on one.  My Tuesday night workout made me seriously question this aversion and realize that I may actually be in love.

I had double runs scheduled for Monday and Tuesday requiring me to run at least one of them each day in the 90-100 degree heat.  As hard as I tried to be smart and do the long, hard run during the cooler morning hours, a late Sunday night run and Power Core Circuit left me in no shape to roll out of bed and run 10 miles Monday morning.  So, I was stuck both days doing my longer, harder runs in the evening.

On the books for Tuesday, I had 19 total miles with 5 moderate (including 5 minutes at half marathon effort) in the morning and a 14-mile hill workout in the evening.  The hill workout included:

  • 10 minutes at lactate threshold (tempo) effort;
  • 5 minutes of recovery;
  • 1,2,3,4,4,3,2,1 minute hills at 5k effort with easy jog down rests between reps;
  • 10 minutes recovery;
  • 3 x 200m cutdowns.

I think it’s obvious why I opted for an indoor treadmill workout for this one, but I felt a wee bit guilty knowing that others were out there in the heat of the evening running their hill repeats on Pennsylvania Hill.  This guilt passed quickly.

I found an underutilized Polar chest strap in my gym bag and threw that on thinking that watching my heart rate change might provide a fun distraction.  The first few miles were easy and my heart rate confirmed this hovering around 130 bpm for an 8:00 pace.  After 2 miles, I launched into the 10 minutes at LT effort and used the HR monitor to help gauge that effort.  I immediately became smitten with this treadmill device.  I set the grade to 1% (to match road pace due to the lack of resistance from air flow you experience on the treadmill) and worked my way from 6:15 pace down to 6:00 and my heart rate never quite reached the LT zone.  This indicated to me that I am getting fitter!

The hill repeats gave me another indication that my fitness is improving.  In past blogs, I indicated that my main goal with this marathon training cycle is to achieve at least the same level of fitness I had going in to Belgrade.  I think I was in close to 2:46 marathon shape then based on workouts and races during that cycle.  So, I am constantly comparing my workout and race performance with what I achieved during that training cycle. 

In January and February, I did two similar treadmill hill repeat workouts and ran the repeats at 5-5.5% grade at speeds between 8-8.8 mph for 5-10k effort.  Tuesday night, I did this workout at 5% grade ranging between 8.8-9.5 mph.  Also, I noted my heart rate during one of the past treadmill workouts and it got up to 178.  It never got above 171 for Tuesday night’s workout, even during the 4-minute repeats.  My heart rate recovered very quickly following each hill repeat, dropping back to below 130 within 30-45 seconds during my rest jog. 

After the hills, I did my 200 meter cut downs finishing as fast as I dared to go on this machine (up to 11mph).  As I jogged part of my cool down on the treadmill before going outside to finish, I noted that my heart rate was actually lower than when I started this run but I was running 30 seconds per mile faster (7:30 pace).  This last observation still boggles my mind.

So, I loved the workout so much that I asked the treadmill to marry me.  You’re all invited to the wedding.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

20 ugly miles

I had a late night at work Friday handling a conservation emergency which forced my run for the day and my power core circuit into late night territory. I noticed as I was running my 9 miles along the trail at 7:30 or so that I was pretty much the only runner out there. Everyone else has a life, I thought. My 9 miler included 8 strides and 3 minutes at 3k effort (5:29 pace).

I got home from the run around dark and set up my home gym to get ready for my power core circuit. I did the circuit while cooking pasta with the hope of eating before 10 p.m. The power core consists of the following:
  • 50-60 push ups (the workout reads "to fatigue" for most of these, so I'm noting how many reps I generally do to get to fatigue)
  • 30-50 each leg, one-legged step ups using at least a 30" step
  • Side pedestal, 30 seconds each side (like a side plank but with arm fully extended)
  • 40-50 dumbbell squats with arm raises (using 5 lb. weights)
  • 8 Prone double arm raises (like a superman, but without lifting the legs)
  • 50-70 squat thrusts
  • 30 seconds sitting bicycle
  • 30-40 Body weight rows (I do bent over rows with 8 lb weights when I don't have a low chin up bar handy)
  • 40-50 each leg, 1-legged squats
  • 8 each leg, sitting push kicks
  • 15 each leg, lateral leg raises
  • 8 each leg, donkey kicks (a retro move from my aerobics classes in the 80s)
  • 10 each leg, lateral leg swings
  • 10 each leg, linear (forward) leg swings
Repeat the above one more time. Then, I do 100 repeats of my abdominal exercises and 30 repeats of a lower back exercise. For my ab workout, I am stuck on bicycles (laying on your back with your feet about 4-6 inches off the ground, rapidly cycling your knees to touch the opposite elbow over and over). For the lower back, I do back extensions on the exercise ball. So, I was doing this routine while dodging cats and dogs, boiling my pasta, cooking the sauce and I still ended up eating dinner at 10 p.m. I had to also practice my music for the concert Saturday which got me to bed around midnight. As I set the alarm for 6 a.m. I wondered if I would be getting up at that time.

Of course, I snoozed right through that alarm and blissfully slept until about 8:30. I definitely needed the sleep, but now I was facing doing my run under warmer conditions. Saturday did not turn out to be a blisteringly hot day, in fact it actually drizzled ever so slightly in the late afternoon, but it was well into the 70s by the time I started my run at around 9:30.

Here's what was on tap for this run:
  • 10 strides
  • Antelope explosion hill drills
  • 30 minutes at 1/2 marathon effort
  • 15 minute recovery jog
  • 12 x 50m at 800m effort/50m jog
  • 1 mile jog
  • 8 x 50m at 800m effort/50m jog
  • moderate run to complete 20 miles total
I debated vociferously with myself about whether or not to postpone the long run to Sunday, when I would be a little more rested and could start earlier to avoid the heat. I could then just do my 8 miler (scheduled for Sunday) that morning. I then reminded myself of the value in doing a long, hard workout while tired because it really helps prepare you both physically and mentally for the end of a marathon race. I decided I would make the call once I got started. So, I packed 3 Roctane gels in my shorts and running bra, threw on some tunes and out the door I went.

After about 3 miles of easy running, my legs were feeling sluggish from the leg exercises the night before and I was heating up. I decided to do the strides thinking my legs might feel a bit more perky after that. Nope. I then launched into the Antelope explosion and almost exploded in William Pond Park. Now, my legs were really tired, and my brain wasn't working very well. I convinced myself that I was committed to this workout now and needed to keep going.

So, I continued east on the river trail and started into the half marathon effort segment. This was a true struggle. I needed, and I mean really needed water at every available water stop. I saw a woman serving water to her canine companion from one of those doggie water bottle trough devices on the side of the trail, and I almost asked if the dog would mind sharing with me. There are couple of stretches that go for 2 miles without water and I really suffered then. I finished the 30 minutes running a surprising 6:14 pace. I was thrilled to carry that pace in my current state. It took every bit of focus and mental energy I had not to quit during that 30-minute hell fest. This is good training, I kept reminding myself.

I was all tapped out at the end of that 30 minutes. I kept thinking to myself as I stumbled over a tree root on my way to get water at the 18-mile marker that, if I had a cell phone, I would raise the Dissin' Genius and ask him to take me home. It took every ounce of energy I had to continue west for another 9 miles. Somewhere between miles 13 and 15 in my run, I started feeling better and decided to tackle the 50/50s. These felt surprisingly easy to me. I finished the run with 4+ miles at 7:30 pace, took off my shoes, iPod, and Garmin, and promptly jumped in the river.

I got home and weighed myself to see just how jacked up my body was, and I was about 4 lbs down at 122. I swear I gulped a half gallon of water at every water fountain on the trail. My percent body water was a very low 56%. My percent water generally runs low on my scale, but I'm typically between 58-62%. I spent the rest of the day in a haze, slogging around wondering just how in the world I was going to muster the energy to play my guitar and sing for an hour at Breena and Justin's concert. I think the three tasty home brews I had while performing really helped with that! It was a great night and a fun event.

I feel great again today and am certainly glad I did no permanent damage yesterday. Plus, I am glad I got that workout over with. I am postponing my run and power core circuit until later this evening to give my body a little more rest. Well, also so I can go see Brüno.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pennsyl*mania* Hill

A recent Facebook post about running 16 times up Pennsylvania Hill generated some curious comments, so I'm using this post to explain what I actually did. 

This is a 90 mile week for me filled with hill repeats, hill drills, sprints, strides and longer lactate threshold and half-marathon-paced bouts.  On Tuesday, I had a double with an easy 6 in the morning including 5 minutes at goal marathon pace (=6:11 pace that day).  The evening workout was 13 miles which included a warm up, 15 minutes at lactate threshold, and the following series of hill repeats:

  • 45 seconds up a hill @ mile effort, 90 second jog rest
  • 45 seconds up a hill @ mile effort, 90 second jog rest
  • 3 minutes up a hill @ 5k effort, 2 minute jog rest
  • 30 seconds up a hill @ mile effort, 30 second jog rest

Repeat above sequence 4 times.   This is where the 16 times up Pennsylvania comes from. So, it was not from bottom to top but it equaled about 3 miles of uphill at some fairly fast paces.  Bearing with me here, this is actually equivalent to doing the hill from the bottom of the bike trail in the park up to the stop sign ~15 times (given that the hill is about 0.20 miles long).

On Tuesday, I stewed all day long about how to get this hill workout in trying to decide whether to do it on a treadmill or try to find a real hill.  It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that you need a fairly long hill (which are a lot more accessible and abundant in Montana where my coach resides) to complete the sequence as written.  I was worried that doing the workout on a treadmill would make it too easy since it’s a challenge to ramp up to true mile effort and then back down with such a short turnaround.  Plus, I enjoy the beating my legs get on the down hills.

So, I made a command decision at 7:00 Tuesday night to use Pennsylvania Hill off of Fair Oaks near Sunrise Blvd. (sporting my refurbed Garmin 405 that came in the mail that day fully charged!).  I had heard stories of this hill and even viewed it on Google maps before deciding to take it on.  I have to say that it was a bit of a disappointment since I was hoping it would be longer and more continuous.  It was, however, better than the treadmill. 

I started off by running west for 3.5 miles on the bike trail at a moderate pace, turned around and started the 15 minutes at LT (6:04 pace—I’m improving!).  I jogged back across the river and got ready for those hills.

I found out quickly that Pennsylvania is not a 3-minute hill even when you go all the way from the bottom, past the stop sign to the tippy top of the hill.  I even tried taking a left at the stop sign at Magnolia and running up that steep section to the top but this eked out only another 10 seconds.  For the most part, I was doing a 2:40-2:55 minute hill.  I also rested for more like 1 minute between the 30 second repeat and the 45 second repeat since I needed to get to the very bottom of the hill to do the next round.  

I finished mile 19 for the day and my last set of repeats in the dark, inhaling small invertebrates in rapid succession, but feeling very strong.  As if that wasn’t enough protein right there, I decided to stop at In-N-Out Burger for some iron-laden meat product and fries. 

I was super tired the next morning, but I had to get up and run 8 miles at 4:45 a.m then drive to San Francisco for an all-day meeting.  I was really glad I hadn’t postponed that workout to the evening because I didn’t get home from work until around 7:30.  Working 45-60 hour weeks in a semi-stressful job and trying to maintain 90 miles per week, plus all of the additional strength training and stretching is not easy.  I hope I don’t break anytime soon.  

On tap for tomorrow:  My first 20 miler for this training cycle replete with all kinds of fancy maneuvers!

SERBIA PRIZE MONEY UPDATE:  The Serbs appear to be making good on the prize money I won at the Belgrade Marathon.  I had sent the race organizers 3 messages over the last 2 months and did not receive even an acknowledgment.  I started performing various internet searches to come up with someone to bug about this and found the e-mail address of an Italian Colonel responsible for the International Military Track and Field Organization.  He sent a message to the race organizers and within 1 hour I received this message:

Dear Ms Jaymee,
We are sorry we didn`t answer to you imidiotely but we were awaiting firstly the results of doping test which came meanwhile. Secondly we were and still are awaiting payments from some of our sponsors.
We hope that by next 7 - 10 days we may give you concrete info of payment. Thank you very much for being patient and we congratulate you once more on your big sucess!
Best wishes
Dejan Nikolic
Belgrade marathon Ltd
Humska 4, 11000 Belgrade

Monday, July 6, 2009

The triple double

After a couple of days of easy miles following the half marathon in Seattle, I had to make up for lost mileage in a big way.  I was scheduled for an 85 mile week last week and was only up to 18 by Wednesday.  So, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday became double workout days.  

The logic behind the double is that it's easier on your body to run two times per day than to do the same mileage in a single run once you start hitting a mileage threshold.  According to Brad Hudson in his recent book "Run Faster from the 5k to the Marathon", that threshold is 70 miles per week.  He says trying to sustain a regimen where you average more than 10 miles per run puts too much strain on your body since you're never really able to get in truly easy runs.  70 miles per week is about the point where I see the first double in my schedule.  

I was pleased to finally get some energy back this last week.  The week before I had been plagued by allergies or some unknown ailment that left my running flat, gave me a case of the dizzies and had my nose plugged so I couldn't breathe.  All of this culminated in the migraine I had the afternoon after the half marathon.  It wasn't until I came out of the fog that I realized just how miserable I had been!

I mentioned a while back that my afternoon workouts on my double days were no longer straight-up easy runs.  I now had 5 minutes of goal marathon or half marathon pace thrown in my second run or cut downs and strides.   I had been somewhat anxious to test out how I would feel doing these little speed sessions in the heat of the day on tired legs.  In all 3 workouts where I had these 5-minute sessions, I was pleasantly surprised that I felt great and exceeded my pace goals.  

While exceeding pace goals might seem like a good thing, it isn't necessarily smart.  Sure, I can bust out a 5:47 minute pace for those 5 minutes when I'm supposed to be running at half marathon effort, but is that helping me?  No, probably not.  While it is often a good idea to ditch the Garmin when running effort-based workouts, I sometimes have a hard time modulating my effort without the feedback.  Those 5 minutes at 5:47 pace felt like half marathon effort to me--really.  I know that's not my half marathon pace, I proved that last weekend, but unless I look at my Garmin and work on slowing myself down, I just keep zooming along at the wrong pace.  So, I will be working on controlling my paces over the next few weeks.

Speaking of technology, Wednesday was a sad day for me.  The wristband on my Garmin 405 snapped at the base of the bezel.  There was no fixing it and the store where I bought it would not take it back.  I was luckily able to get Garmin to agree to send me a new one for free even though it was a couple of months out of warranty.  I am still waiting for the replacement to arrive and using a spare 305 in the meantime.  The 305 is a good machine,  but the satellite reception stinks.  I got stuck in a continuous stride on Saturday during my workout when I lost satellite reception and the distance countdown hung up at 116 feet.  I kept running and running waiting for the beep to sound indicating the stride was finished and finally clued in that something was amiss after about a quarter mile.  After clearing out of the trees and finding my sats, I was able to resume my workout (because I couldn't possibly continue without a functional GPS:).           

I had one quality workout last week on Saturday morning as part of my long run.  It was the workout that was originally scheduled for Tuesday before my coach rearranged my schedule so I could hop in the half marathon.  The morning workout was 14 miles with 30 minutes broken up into 1, 2, 3, and 4 minute efforts with the 1 minute segments at 3k effort, 2 minute segments at 5k effort and the 3 and 4 minute segments at 10k effort.  The jog in between each was half the segment time (e.g. 30 seconds for the 1 minute, 2 minutes for the 4 minute segment).  The progression looked like 1, 4, 3, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2.  This was a fun workout.  I ended up averaging: 
  • 5:52 for 10k effort
  • 5:45 for 5k effort  
  • 5:30 for 3k effort
I felt strong despite windy and warm conditions having gotten a pretty late start that morning. The evening run was nice too, because my pace was set to moderate rather than easy which meant I didn't have to feel guilty about running faster than 8:30 minute pace (this is my target easy pace, but I never seem to hit it).  I had 5 minutes at GMP again and ran it at 6:08 pace on surprisingly springy legs.  I went out later that night and danced right through the end of the 4th of July with DG and my friends in Davis. 

I was proud of myself for making sure I got all of my core and strength training in last week.  I had slacked off on this for the two weeks prior and had only done the workouts once per week.

I face a couple of 90-mile weeks next including some tough workouts before I get ready to race another hilly half marathon in San Francisco at the end of the month.  I'm making sure I load up on the carbs these next few weeks.   

I also found out last week that I won some prize money for being the first female masters finisher in Seattle though I have no idea how much.  It is ironic that I will receive payment for a race I did last week before I even hear back from anyone in Serbia about the 2000 Euros I won there.  Will I ever see the prize money from that race?  I'm not holding my breath.